By Robert Matylewicz, DO, ABAM, Medical Director at Clarity Way\n\nIt\u2019s common for inpatient drug rehab centers to prohibit clients from using smartphones and laptops during their stay. At first glance, this seems to make sense. Shouldn\u2019t people be detached from stressors and potential triggers and focus only on treatment? What if their dealer texts them or they get an upsetting email from work?\n\n\nIn reality, it\u2019s not so black and white. There\u2019s actually a strong argument to be made for staying plugged into everyday life during treatment.\nBenefits of Outside Contact\nTo some degree, clients should be removed from everyday life enough so that it gives them the space they need to work on their issues. But if you completely shelter them from life outside of treatment, you may be setting them up for an overwhelming, oversaturated experience when they walk out the door.\n\nThere are a number of benefits to allowing people access to cell phones and laptops in drug and alcohol rehab with close oversight and support from their treatment team. These include:\n#1 Avoiding information overload\nThe stress of returning to hundreds of texts and emails, perhaps some from people they really shouldn\u2019t be associating with anymore, can be a potential minefield for people in recovery. It can also be shocking to return to a world you\u2019ve been cut off from for 30 days or more with regards to current news and world events.\n#2 Removing barriers to treatment\nFor better or worse, these days people are very attached to their smartphones and laptops. We\u2019ve found that not having access to these devices for a period of time can be enough of a sticking point for some to forego getting the life-saving treatment they need. My philosophy is that being in drug rehab with a cell phone or laptop is better than being out on the street using drugs any day of the week. If smartphone and internet use present a problem, I prefer to get them into treatment and work with them on that here.\n\nSome people have legitimate reasons for using these devices. They need to stay in touch with their children, they have legal issues due to their substance abuse and must be in touch with their lawyer, or they just can\u2019t completely detach from their work for 30 days without jeopardizing their jobs. Allowing them to stay connected helps make treatment possible.\n#3 Staying in touch with loved ones\nIt\u2019s especially important for people with children to be able to stay connected to them during treatment if it\u2019s clinically appropriate. Being able to call family helps clients maintain relationships and fulfill personal responsibilities while in treatment. It also presents an opportunity for them to address everyday interpersonal issues that arise with the guidance of their treatment team.\n#4 Learning healthy technology practices\nA Nielsen study estimates that people spend 10 hours and 39 minutes per day on smartphones, computers, televisions and other media devices. If a client is excessively using technology, the treatment team is able to work with them to develop heathier usage practices. Without clients having freedom to use these devices in treatment, we would never know their leisure habits and if there is a problem. With guidelines around when clients can use smartphones, they learn the benefits of unplugging for a while and how that can improve sleep hygiene, reduce anxiety and contribute to an overall balanced, healthy lifestyle.\n#5 Building trust\nMany people in treatment for addiction haven\u2019t been trusted for quite some time. Allowing use of smartphones and laptops with guidelines can help develop trust between the client and therapist. We\u2019ve had some instances where clients have broken the technology guidelines \u2013 for example, not deleting contacts they agreed to remove \u2013 but have come to us later and admitted to that and made the choice to follow through. Feeling trusted again can be a very healing experience.\nHow Access to Technology Works in Addiction Treatment\nIn order to ensure smartphone and laptop use isn\u2019t a hindrance to treatment, guidelines need to be set. At Clarity Way, our policy of allowing these devices has been successful because of the parameters we\u2019ve set, which include:\n\nIndividualized usage rules \u2013 Even before clients enter treatment we assess their need for and the clinical appropriateness of smartphone and laptop use. For example, if a client has had issues with gambling in addition to their primary diagnosis of drug or alcohol addiction, more strict rules will need to be placed around usage so they\u2019re not visiting online gambling sites, contacting their bookie and so on. Or if a client has social anxiety and is using their phone to avoid connection with others, that will need to be addressed. We revisit these guidelines throughout treatment to make sure they continue to be appropriate.\n\nFive-day black out period \u2013 When they first enter treatment, all of our clients are asked to refrain from smartphone or laptop use for five days. This way they can focus solely on getting physically and emotionally healthy enough for treatment, adjusting to their surroundings, and building connections with peers and staff.\n\nSet times for use \u2013 Clients\u2019 technology use cannot interfere with treatment. They aren\u2019t permitted to use their phones in group sessions or any therapeutic activity. They can use their smartphones and laptops during personal time and at night.\n\nTechnology boundaries \u2013 We have agreements with each client about how and when they can use their devices, such as appropriate websites they can visit and people they can contact. If a problem arises, they understand that they might be blocked from WiFi, have their SIM card confiscated, or only be permitted to use their devices in public areas or under staff supervision.\n\nAdherence to privacy laws \u2013 All technology use must be in accordance with HIPPA regulations. For instance, clients cannot take photos of each other or the facility and post them on websites or send them back and forth.\n\nWe\u2019ve received positive feedback from clients that our flexible technology policy has made treatment feasible for them with their work and personal obligations and has lessened the anxiety of being away from family during this time. As long as clients remember that their primary reason for being here is to get better and checking into work or contacting loved ones is secondary, the use of smartphones and laptops can enhance recovery work in many cases.